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16 Commercial Real Estate Execs On Why They Love City Skylines (Part 1)

    Views from Stevens & Wilkinson's downtown Atlanta office

    There is a reason the commercial real estate industry is infatuated with skylines — they are energizing, allowing professionals to experience the buzz of the office on weekdays and the excitement of nightlife during the weekend. Buildings that touch the skyline serve as places to live, to work and to play. They are places to grab coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. They show off a moment in time, with snippets of the past and the future buzzing around.

    Take a look at some of the memorable skyline views around the country, and read why these 16 commercial real estate execs love to look at them.


    Courtesy of Amber Kimbrell, Stevens & Wilkinson // Views from Stevens & Wilkinson's downtown Atlanta office

    “The Atlanta skyline is memorable because it was formed along the old Peachtree Ridge as the high point of our first settlers' walking trail through the city. Thus Atlanta was not formed in a true grid pattern — rather a winding collection of neighborhoods that make up our city and is the most visible point from the Western and Southern approaches.”

     — Stevens & Wilkinson Principal and Chairman Ron Stang

    “I am fortunate to work with a variety of skylines throughout the Southeast. Whether big or small, historic or modern, each one offers its own gift, serving as a source of inspiration and motivation for our team. I find the Atlanta skyline particularly unique because of its thick tree canopy – our beloved city in a forest. From our office at Monarch Tower, we see the Buckhead and Downtown skylines, both of which are major submarkets for NKF Atlanta.” 

    — Newmark Knight Frank’s Southeast Executive Vice President Brett Hunsaker

    “As a resident of Midtown Atlanta, I often marvel at how our ever-changing skyline serves to motivate and inspire. Beginning with the construction of Colony Square 50 years ago, Midtown has become the most highly sought-after urban district in the Southeast. From my balcony on the 35th floor, I begin and end my day reflecting on how our city has grown and how we will continue to contribute to Atlanta’s skyline in the future.” 

    — North American Properties managing partner Mark Toro

    “As the president of a leading commercial real estate-focused PR firm, I get to tell the stories of our clients, who are shaping the skylines of cities across the country. What an honor! One of our clients is 101 Marietta St., which has long been an iconic building and recognizable part of the Atlanta skyline. Now, the recently renovated building represents a renewed downtown. I spent my 20s as a newspaper reporter, including seven years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which was then located across from 101 Marietta St. Downtown is so different than it was when I ‘retired’ from journalism in 2006. It is bustling with tourists and office workers. More change is coming with a handful of major development projects underway, including Summerhill (near the former Turner Field) and the renovation of Underground Atlanta. I am filled with pride in Atlanta, especially when I think about the resurgence of our downtown.” 

    — The Wilbert Group President Caroline Wilbert 


    “A skyline is somewhat of a fingerprint of a city. The street patterns and regional aesthetic preferences over time are reflected in something that becomes a point of civic pride and a reminder to locals and visitors alike as to where you are. In Boston, a dense skyline in the Financial District is balanced by the Back Bay, where the city’s two, now three, tallest buildings stand further apart. While Cambridge has resisted high-rise development, it appears an openness to a tall structure at the site of the Volpe Transportation Center could create a tall focal point for the nation’s higher education capital. I think it’s also interesting to note that the Prudential Tower in the Back Bay, at 750’, was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City upon its completion in 1962. It is interesting to think of Boston as being such a pioneer of building tall at the time, even having a tower taller than anything in Chicago.”

    — Perry Brokerage Director of Intelligence Brendan Carroll


    View from 300 South Brevard in Charlotte

    “Theres not many office buildings where you get an actual view and whole perspective of the Uptown skyline. With a lot of buildings, you’re in your office and you’re looking out — you’re looking either at a parking deck or you’re looking at the building next door, you don’t get the full picture. So coming over here and seeing this view was pretty cool.”

    — Stream Realty Partners Vice President Bob Boykin  

    “I’m born and raised in Charlotte, so for me the skyline has been ever-changing. I moved away once to live in England, and I came back after eight months. I landed at Charlotte Douglas — when you’re landing, you could see the whole Charlotte skyline. It was like a familiar friend. I could see they had built the Duke Energy tower. I remember losing it slightly, being so upset that so much time had passed that I missed the building of a brand-new skyscraper in Charlotte, my Charlotte. I think there's something both powerful and nostalgic about this particular skyline because I’ve grown up with it, we’ve kind of grown up together.” 

    — Northwood Ravin Management Director of Marketing Kate Jarrell 

    “You kind of feel the energy of the city, but when you look at the skyline view, I think that really resonates with people. We’re a social species, and we thrive off the energy of others. The city is the best environment to feel that energy. The skyline view kind of triggers that emotion.”

    — ATCO Properties & Management Development Director Tommy Mann


    A view of Chicago includes Legacy at Millennium Park and the Heritage at Millennium Park, Avison Young-developed projects

    “As the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago is known for its world-class architecture, but what always strikes me is the curation of the cityscape as a whole. While architects, artists and engineers continue to push the boundaries of modern design, the city has never felt meretricious. Chicago’s architecture strikes the perfect chronological balance, artfully integrating modern and vintage design aesthetics in a way that showcases the city’s past, present and future all in one spectacular display. When we developed the Legacy and the Heritage, we tried to be very cognizant of this equilibrium. While both buildings are exemplars of modern glass and steel architecture, we kept the century-old facades of the original street-level buildings to create that balance for which Chicago is known, and we’re very proud of that achievement.”

     — Avison Young Chicago Principal – Development 
    Richard Hanson, a Counselor of Real Estate

    “I have a bit of bias because of where I was born and have lived a good portion of my life, but I have been a lot of places, and Chicago still has one of the best skylines, if not the tallest any longer. One reason has to do with its situation on Lake Michigan. Because after the Chicago Fire of 1871, an effort was made to create a continuous park along the lakefront, built from the rubble cleared from the fire. The 'show' that is the Chicago skyline has a clear sightline from the 'auditorium' that is the lake. Many cities have waterfronts, but not many have a spot where you can stand in the lake and take in the entire spread of downtown buildings, lined up Michigan Avenue and then marching over to the east along the top of Millennium Park (the jut of land was always there, although the Millennium part of the park belt is newer).

    The other reason is that there are so many exemplary skyscrapers in that view, not least of which are the Sears (Willis) Tower, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Prudential and any number of the elaborately decorated terracotta pre-war skyscrapers lining Michigan Avenue. The spectrum of 20th-century urban design can be grasped in one take, and now that the Vista Tower is visible above its neighbors, you can catch the 21st as well.” 

    — Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Editor Daniel Safarik

    “Growing up in the Chicago area, the shape of the city’s skyline is probably what inspired me to become an architect; the way it emerges in stark contrast to the flat landscape of the Illinois prairie and takes on different forms from all approaches. Chicago’s skyline is also the defining textbook on the history of the modern skyscraper. Maybe it’s the spirit of Chicagoans, or maybe it’s because we faced adversity rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1871; but, like Chicago itself, the city’s architecture has always pushed the boundaries of innovative technology and design and continues to evolve and inspire other cities around the world to achieve great works of architecture.” 

    SOM Managing Director Adam Semel


    “Regarding the Dallas skyline, one word comes to mind and that is unique. From the iconic Reunion Tower to the green neon outlining the Bank of America tower, the angles associated with Fountain Place to the design of Chase Tower, these and other buildings provide a unique and beautiful skyline that is very dramatic and memorable.”

    — KLM Realty Advisors President Glenn Silva,
    a Counselor of Real Estate


    Courtesy of Shannon O’Hara // The view from a terrace at Hotel Alessandra

    “Houston’s tagline, The City with No Limits, works as a perfect description of its skyline. With its legendary sprawl, there is not just one, but rather many [skylines], each unique and wonderful in its own way. I’m particularly partial to downtown, which coming from any direction, has an almost Oz-like quality about it as clusters of architecturally significant buildings from architects ranging from Cesar Pelli to Philip Johnson rise from lush, green surroundings. We’ve been thrilled to be part of a new wave of construction — with Gensler and Rottet Studio’s Hotel Alessandra — that is bringing new life and interesting design back to the central core.”

    — Valencia Group Executive Vice President of Operations Roy Kretschmer

    “The Houston skyline is a tale of two cities: Houston and the Texas Medical Center.” 

    — Texas Medical Center President and Chief Executive Officer William McKeon

    “To look out and see the Houston skyline means home to so many people. It’s a feeling of peace and joy — that this is where you live and it’s your safe, happy place.” 

    — Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty President Marilyn Thompson


    Las Vegas

    “Vegas has the most electric, kinetic and colorful skyline in the USA. It is simply entertaining to watch from a rooftop bar or even a hotel room at night.”

    — Cooper Carry Principal Gar Muse

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